While Mashfest may not be the most recognizable corner of New York’s fighting game scene, the event celebrated its four-year anniversary in style last week, complete with tournaments for Street Fighter V and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. BROKENTIER’s IFC Persia and cosplayer Miss Gidget served as the evening’s hosts, while Team Spooky’s Arturo “Sabin” Sanchez provided a stream to capture the action.
New York City’s Mashfest isn’t a tournament, it’s an experience. The biweekly gaming happy hour is held at Manhattan’s M1-5 Lounge, hosting some 150 people for casual sessions, live DJs, classic arcade cabinets and positive vibes on Monday nights.
Co-founders Jon Haehnle and Maxim Tsireshkin partnered to launch Mashfest in 2012, looking to provide a casual space for fighting gamers to meet. At the time, Brooklyn’s Next Level arcade was still young, and New York’s scene was working to recuperate from the loss of Chinatown Fair, an arcade that had been an essential part of the scene.
Players once gathered at the renowned arcade to revel in the competition, talk smack with local challengers, and maybe sneak in a drink or two on Friday or Saturday nights. New York’s competitive fervor didn’t die with the old Chinatown Fair; tournaments continued around the city, but Mashfest sought to preserve the social environment that comes with offline sessions.
“When you play guys online and you lose, one of you is like ‘I suck,’ and there’s no conversation,” Haehnle told SRK in an interview. “This has socializing, but it can also be, ‘oh how did you do that? Or how do I block that?’ I feel like it’s much more conducive to learning.”
Starting with Street Fighter IV and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, Mashfest launched as a series of free tournaments. Haehnle said bars were the ideal space for the casual events, as the owners worry less about venue fees if drinks are being sold. Tsireshkin was able to provide equipment during the early days of the event, and players helped chip in with their own setups when possible.
With skill levels ranging from beginner to Evo champion, the event eventually blossomed into a space for competitive and casual players alike to improve their skills without the high-pressure climate of a tournament.
“If you don’t come to Mashfest, you don’t want to get better,” Sanford Kelly told SRK.
Michael “IFC Yipes” Mendoza said that Chinatown Fair’s change in ownership had left a “bald spot” in the scene, but Mashfest stepped up to help fill the void.
“With Mashfest–shoutouts to Jon and Max–it kind of brings back that vibe, it gives us more leeway and open arms to do the things we were doing and not have to hide it,” Yipes said. “We can drink, have fun, dance it up with all of the people out here, that’s what makes it beautiful out here, it makes me comfortable.”
At a time when NYChrisG was dominating Next Level’s Big Two tournament series in UMvC3, Mashfest provided a more casual atmosphere for the game’s burgeoning scene. Eventually Mashfest moved towards casual sessions, with the occasional free tournament. Bragging rights were still up for grabs, but the core of the event was always about casuals.
“Lots of people just focus on just the hardcore scene, which is good, you definitely need that,” Haehnle said. “But not everybody wants to go to a tournament and pay 10 bucks in venue fee, get bodied 6-0 and peace out.”
Over the past four years Mashfest has cultivated an audience and style of its own, independent of NYC’s fighting game scene. For special events like NYU’s Spring Fighter, Mashfest has partnered with SonicBoomBox (Haehnle’s cosplay brand) to provide gaming after-parties with the help of Mad Catz and BROKENTIER. As the event continued to grow, Haehnle asked Persia to come on as the formal host at the start of the year.
Persia was already a Mashfest frequenter and becoming a host was a natural progression for the popular UMVC3 caster. As the Marvel community turns a corner in the game’s lifespan, Persia said the title is still a mainstay for Mashfest, and New York.
“Mashfest and Bum’s tournaments have been the most consistent events, obviously Bum’s tournaments [The Savage Land] are more competitive-driven, Mashfest is more socially driven,” Persia said. “I think both of them offer good opportunities and different aspects of the community in New York.”
The Marvel LIVE! host also rebuffed claims that the game is dying, saying: “Everyone watches, everyone plays, everyone is still entering, and that’s what really matters right now. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but Marvel lives in New York!”
Even as some doubt New York’s competitive drive, there is no question that the players are there. The reality is that not every fighting game fan is a competitive player. While dozens attended Mashfest’s fourth anniversary celebration, the SFV bracket saw just 26 players. But a challonge bracket can never tell the whole story.
“When people talk about the FGC they are almost always talking about the name players, the competitive scene and hardcore stuff because that’s more exciting than casuals,” Haehnle said. “People only want to watch when the name players play, but I do consider us a part of the FGC.”
He added: “People say New York’s scene is dying, and I get why they say that, but we get 150 people every other Monday; we’re still here.”
By the end of Mashfest’s fourth anniversary event, TS|Sabin took home first place in SFV with a $100 pot bonus from GameChat, while TG|No Life earned first place in UMvC3, which had a pot bonus of $50 provided by Mashfest. The next Mashfest will be held on tonight, May 31 (due to the Memorial Day holiday). You can follow the event on Facebook for more information.